Sunday, June 7, 2015

Three PR Lessons from Taylor Swift

As a Baby Boomer guy with no daughters, here’s everything I know about Taylor Swift.  She’s incredibly famous and successful as a pop entertainer/singer who used to be country.  She dated a Kennedy.  She was dissed on some major awards show by Kanye West, and on Saturday she was in Pittsburgh to perform to a sellout crowd at Heinz Field. 

Don’t ask me about her music or anything else. When I see her photo on a magazine cover, article or Internet post, I try to skip past it as fast as I do when I see a Kardashian’s photo.

The main reasons I know she was in Pittsburgh was that it was impossible to avoid on the local news, and I drove by Heinz Field the day before her concert while the crew was unloading the staging equipment from the trucks.  A lot of trucks.

What amazed me was she sheer number of 18-wheelers in her entourage, each with a billboard-sized, four-color image of Taylor in a pair of sunglasses touting the “1989 World Tour.”  As I drove by all the trucks, I started to count, then I lost count.  What I can say is from outside the stadium, it appears to take more people and resources to get Taylor Swift on stage than it does to produce an NFL football game.

A part of me wondered if show managers add a bunch of empty trucks in the entourage just to make the production look bigger than it is, but I doubt it.  If there’s one thing Taylor Swift doesn’t need is more publicity, particularly that which is centered on how many trucks are required to put on a show.

So, given the fact I know so little about Taylor Swift, the PR lessons I have gleaned from her are superficial at best, but they are no less telling: 

#1 – Go big or go home.  I’m sure she would have packed Heinz Field with a smaller production, but audiences expect more than a performance. They want an event.  When we create PR events, we need to make sure that once we’ve committed to an event, that’s exactly what it is – a memorable event – not just a forum for communicating information. 

#2 – Make the most of it while you can. Since I don’t know Taylor Swift, I have no idea how she views her success.  But I’d be willing to bet that a few of her more seasoned managers and advisors have been around the block enough times to know this kind of success doesn’t happen often or last long, so when you have the opportunity, make the most of it.  That means that once you’ve achieved your initial goals, think of “stretch goals” that make the project even better for everyone.  Of course, there is always the possibility of an over-reach and that can backfire.  In PR terms, the best approach may be simply to take nothing for granted and know that once you’ve achieved our initial goals, think of ways to maximize those results.  Don’t assume you will easily repeat this same kind of success. 

#3 – Don’t let your initial brand identity limit you. Even though I like country music, I really can’t tell you which country songs are hers.  I know that even within the country genre, I was never her targeted market.  And I know that once she achieved unprecedented success as a country artist, she was presented with an opportunity to redefine herself to a broader audience.  This is true for brands as well.  While initial brand focus and identity is often critical to initial success, brands can outgrow that initial identity and may be in need of tweaking or redefinition. Don’t be afraid of this.  It can lead to bigger and better things for any brand.

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